Best Korean restaurants in Chicago
Baked potato bread; warm, creamy blood sausage custard; Korean ssam piled with country ham—Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark's highly personal Korean-American restaurant is one of the most creative places in town. But it's not just the food that makes Parachute special—there's an interesting and well-edited beverage list, affordable prices and an utter lack of pretension that makes dining here comfortable.
The Korean-style chicken at this cheery storefront is fresh, of good quality and comes slathered in three sauces: a sticky barbecue, a hot sauce–laced buffalo and a sesame-soy glaze dubbed “Seoul Sassy.” There’s also a decent bibimbap (best ordered with “marinated” vegetables, beef, an egg and brown rice) and Korean-style burritos whose fresh vegetables benefit from a liberal slather of sweetish hot sauce, but the chicken is the thing.
Jennifer Kim’s charming Andersonville restaurant is at once breezy and intensely felt, comfy yet dressed up. The Italian-influenced Korean-American cuisine is unique and wholly delicious, and the wine somehow elevates it further. Delineated in both English and Korean, the menu offers seasonal treasures like hamachi with a grapefruit emulsion, spare ribs with soy-garlic glaze and a delightful almond biscotti studded with tart cherry.
Chicagoans love this tiny Lincoln Square spot for plenty of reasons, but regulars will agree that the fire chicken is what keeps them coming back. Nugget-sized morsels of poultry are smothered in spicy chili sauce before they're tossed on the grill and heated to crispy perfection. Pro tip: Order the dish "cheesy" to balance out the heat. If you're staying a while (and you should), get adventurous with orders of the fried pork skin, chicken gizzard and seasoned rice balls.
This family-owned business isn't afraid of breaking tradition in favor of trying something new. Served on grilled corn tortillas, the Korean BBQ tacos are particularly popular, with options like sesame-chili shrimp, spicy BBQ pork and blackened tofu. Other border-blending dishes include the kalbi poutine with braised short rib and beef gravy and the spicy calamari stir-fry, which is served in a traditional hot pot.
As far as we know, this is the only place in town brave enough to serve Korean-Polish fusion eats. First-timers should order the Maria's Standard sausage with soju mustard, a hybrid sauerkraut-slash-kimchi, scallions and an amazingly soft roll. Repeat customers can dive into scallion potato pancakes, Kimski poutine and "dressed" fries, which are topped with soy cream, chili oil, nori, sesame seeds and scallions. As an added bonus, the sprawling outdoor patio is one of our favorite summertime hangouts.
Korean-American mash-ups are certainly nothing new (as are other fusion-type restaurants you'll see on this list), but this sparse Rogers Park spot manages to execute its concoctions with enough pizzazz to make you want to check out a fusion restaurant. Sure, straight-shooters can do well with rice plates, but we prefer the loosely packed burgers topped with an oozing fried egg, funky kimchi and a squirt of kimchi mayo. Surprisingly, the cream of the crop is a side: piping hot french fries drowned in a creamy mess of cheddar, bacon and kimchi. Yeah, we know, others do it, too—but bopNgrill does it best.
The intoxicating aromas of soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar and garlic tell you this place is good before you walk in the door. Talk the server into letting you cook your own sliced beef (as is customary at Korean-barbecue restaurants) because the salty-sweet marinated meats we cooked tableside were more tender than the kitchen’s version. Of the giant wave of little side dishes that accompany the barbecue, don’t pass up the moist fish cake, perfect with a bottle of Korean beer.
With meat sizzling on a grill in the middle of the table and plenty of banchan plates filling up whatever space is left, the meal at Gogi is certainly a stimulating one. You'll watch as servers bring out raw meats to set on the grill in front of you—we were happy with our pork belly and brisket. But the fun part comes at the end of the meat being cooked, when whatever's left is thrown into a mix of white rice with grilled kimchi and slabs of butter with an egg and whatever banchan happen to be left on your table. And that's the best part—so don't fill up too quickly.
Korean tacos are old news, but they feel fresh again at this delightful Korean-fusion spot, where Indian-style parathas replace masa tortillas to unexpectedly magical effect. There is more to En Hakkore, however, than these instantly famous bulgogi tacos: Bowls of bibimbap overflow with fresh vegetables and easily serve two, while supple steamed dumplings are packed with perfectly seasoned pork.
There's a reason a full roll of paper towels tops every table in this mod chicken shack: The signature Korean-style chicken wings are enormous, saucy, sticky and hopelessly messy. They are also hopelessly delicious, so order double the amount you normally would. (Here's a tip: Wings drenched in soy-garlic "Dak sauce" are more craveable than those in the spicier—but less interesting—barbecue sauce). One of the rice bowls—say, the tender bulgogi—is probably in order, too, not so much for the meat but for the rice, which can soak up any sauce the wings leave behind.
You’ll leave here with the essence of ash wafting from your clothes, but that’s no reason to stay away from the charcoal-fueled Korean barbecue. The wang kalbi and dai ji kalbi are marinated, not saturated, in their respective sauces, which gives the high-quality meats a chance to speak for themselves. Don’t want to smell like a campfire? Try the bibim naeng Myun, a big bowl of cold buckwheat noodles and beef topped with a spicy and flavorful chili sauce.
This sprawling market has a crazy array of noodles, miso pastes and veggies to take home to try your own hand at cooking Asian cuisine, but you'll want to stop by the back corner of the market, where a small area is reserved for shoppers to grab a quick and cheap meal. You'll find vegetarian offerings like a veggie bibimbap with spicy kimchi or a kal-guk-soo, a Korean soup with handmade noodles and potatoes. Grab a meal there but don't forget to save some room for the dumplings at the counter to your right upon leaving—they're $2 a piece and massive. What's not to love?